This is the sequel to Perception. I suggest you read that first to understand the history between the characters and the references to events that happened in that story. Also, this story is not a complex epic. It's a romance, with a bit of drama thrown in. XD

Warnings: language, mild violence, plenty of angst and abuse of romantic plot devices.

Silver Lining


Behind every dark cloud is a silver lining.


Chapter One: The Ghost of You

The scorching midsummer sun blazed down merciless and brutal on her back as she walked the dusty road into town. Sakura had lived most of her life in Fire country—though much further north among the lush, verdant forests—but she couldn't remember the last time it was this hot. It was torturous, even to someone in her physical condition. Irritably wiping a gloved hand across the back of her sweating neck, she sighed with mild relief as the outlying buildings of the city came into view ahead.

The intense heat beat upon her like a physical hand, like the weight of her conscience telling her to just turn around and leave this miserable place and never come back. She hadn't set foot in Fire country in…nine months? At least. She avoided working within these borders as much as possible. However, the pay promised for this mission was just too good to ignore, and she'd been having a rather dry spell lately.

There was always work for someone with her varied skills, but there were no wars and no epidemics, and healers were not in high demand at the moment. The nature of work seemed to run in cycles, and lately it seemed like everyone who was looking to hire ninja were looking for assassins. Sakura didn't didn't deny what she was behind false morality, but she wasn't one of those shinobi who could kill for money without question. No matter how desolate, no matter how desperate and hungry she got, she would not cross that final line. There would always be another job, somewhere, if she looked hard enough. She would not sink so low. They would be ashamed of her if she did.

Hopefully this contract was one she could accept, because she only had enough money left for a few weeks' lodging and food. Details about this job were unclear, only that the contractor was looking for two shinobi of high caliber, one male and one female, relatively young in appearance, who could pass as civilians. That told her a few things, mainly that is was an undercover job of some sort. It could very well turn out to be as bad as the last one: the contractor had wanted his allegedly unfaithful wife and their infant child murdered. Of course Sakura had walked away without a backward glance, but it angered her because she knew that somewhere out there, there would be a shinobi who would do it, and that woman and her child were probably already dead.

This was the world Sakura lived in now. Harsh and unforgiving, you survive or you die. At least her world was that way; the world of the ninja. As had always been and always would be, the majority of the population lived in ignorant peace, completely unaware of dealings within the shadowy underworld of society. What civilians knew of the tailed demons was very little. They were strange phenomena, rarely spoken of, scarcely affecting their quiet uneventful towns. They had no idea of the apocalyptic chaos those primordial creatures had caused in the shinobi world, of the destruction they had wrought upon so many lives.

The world had no idea that people like Sakura had seen and survived such things, no idea that people like her had lost everything and now walked the beaten paths of the world alone.

With a tired huff she shifted her pack on her shoulders and watched a group of dirty children kicking rocks back and forth in the street as she entered town. Their playful laughter sounded bitter and hollow in her ears as she passed them. These children were clearly impoverished, their worn clothes damp with sweat, their bare, cracked feet kicking up clouds of dust as they played their game. But they were laughing. Poor and unfortunate as they were, they didn't know true suffering. They remained naively innocent the way children should be.

Did the children of the hidden villages still laugh? Sakura supposed she wouldn't know. She hadn't entered a hidden village in over two years.

As predicted by Jiraiya, and hoped for by everyone with a stake in the matter, a little over one year after Sakura was rescued from her captivity, Akatsuki failed in their quest to capture all of the bijuu. They never got the Kyuubi, and the process they had had begun inevitably exceeded its time limit. They got desperate in the end, but with only five members living they couldn't attack Konoha directly. Konoha discovered the identity of the Akatsuki leader shortly before he had led Hidden Rain in a war against the Leaf. They were joined by Stone, and eventually by Mist, both of whom only wanted an excuse to attack their strongest enemy. Sand and Cloud came to Konoha's aid as allies, and the shinobi nations were once again thrown into another secret world war. If their enemies had realized they were only being manipulated by Akatsuki to get their hands on the Kyuubi, it hadn't mattered in the end.

What no one had expected was the catastrophic extent Akatsuki's failure to obtain the Kyuubi would reach. They lost control of the bijuu; the jutsu used to seal them became unstable and eventually failed. When it broke, all eight demons were released in their true forms back into the world. In their rage, they took vengeance upon their overambitious captors and then upon the villages that had imprisoned them. The Akatsuki were all reported dead. Months later they would learn that at least two had survived, when Pein and Konan surfaced again in Rain. The war continued, the remaining Akatsuki and founder of its vision manipulating and orchestrating the downfall of all shinobi nations out of pure spite.

The pointless war went on without cease, even when the bijuu began attacking the hidden villages that once held them. In the first year, the One-Tail Shukaku wreaked havoc upon his former prison of Hidden Sand. The Kazekage confronted his once inner demon in an epic battle that would be remembered among shinobi for all time. Gaara eventually resealed the Ichibi inside himself and for the sake of his people, ended his own life, taking the demon with him forever. But Suna was utterly destroyed. The refugees joined Konoha and continued to fight alongside their grateful allies.

It went on and on, ninja killing ninja while their homes and villages were left decimated in the wake of the enraged demons. Only Konoha was left untouched by the vengeful bijuu, the demon it imprisoned still sealed within their Hokage. Some of the monsters were resealed, and killed with the sacrifice of the chosen jinchuuriki. Some, once sealed, were harnessed and used as weapons once more by the villages that trapped them, to give them advantage in the war that was slowly but surely bringing and end to the shinobi world as they knew it. The rest retreated to wherever it was they dwelled to avoid the fate of their brethren.

Even once they were gone, the fighting didn't cease. Three years after the war began Konoha and its allies were winning, and it looked as though an end may be in sight. But then Konan was killed, and they could not have known the effect that would have on both sides. Sakura had been part of that battle, alongside Shizune and their master Tsunade, the retired Hokage. They lost Shizune that day. Sakura had barely made it out alive, only her medical skills saving her. Tsunade survived as well, but she was an old woman and the strain of the monumental battle had ultimately taken its toll, and the Sannin died not long after of weariness and old age, effects that no medic could heal.

They had not known, and therefore could not have expected it, but with Konan's death the full fury of Pein was unleashed upon the world. He had masterminded from the rear for the entire war, but after the loss of his partner he came out to the front lines. He killed hundreds, mercilessly slaughtering any who stood in his path, including his own men. His wrath was terrifying, and it was no wonder those loyal to him thought him a god. It had taken many to defeat him—Naruto at his full Kyuubi-enhanced power, Jiraiya, Sasuke…some of the most powerful ninja in the world. Sakura was not allowed to fight with them, as she would be needed after to save their lives. And she had been needed; it had been so close. Pein was finally dead, but so many more had been lost as well, including Jiraiya, last of the legendary Sannin.

With their leader gone, Rain retreated in defeat. But Stone and Mist would not give up until Leaf was destroyed, and so the war continued past all knowledge of its origin, until no one knew what they were fighting and dying for anymore.

And as the years passed, surely and cruelly one by one, Sakura began to lose the people closest to her. Her friends, her family, her heart, until she was left alone and empty. Sakura was a medic, and she had thought herself jaded to the pain and the blood and the loss of war. But she hadn't been jaded enough, hadn't been prepared when the toll of conflict began to hit successively closer to home, eventually ripping her entire world apart.

The first hard blow had been when Tenzou never returned from a scouting mission along the Iwa border. He and his team of chuunin were never recovered. They were never that close, but Sakura had thought of him like a favorite uncle and he had been a good friend of Kakashi's, and it was painful to lose him. And then it was Ino, brought home by her grieving teammates, carried in the arms of her husband who soon followed her.

A year passed, many more were lost, and Sakura began to feel jaded again. Until that day, on that large and bloody battlefield, when they lost Sai. Sakura had been there; she had clung to him and sobbed in helpless anger, unable to save him. He died in her arms with a smile, thanking her for teaching him so many things and helping him understand friendship. After that day the wound in her heart would not close. But Sakura didn't know the meaning of true pain until the day Naruto brought Sasuke home. Sasuke had sacrificed himself to save Naruto, a true brother to the very end. They told her he died instantly; there was nothing she could have done. But she still hated herself for not having been there.

Four years after that pointless war began, Kakashi was lost on a classified mission of vital importance. The pain of losing him nearly killed her. She had wanted to die, only Naruto and the deep-seated knowledge that Kakashi would want her to live kept her from finding a way to make it happen. He succeeded in his mission, and they gained an advantage that ultimately led to their victory. The Copy Ninja was a hero, a legend of Hidden Leaf. But to Sakura those praises meant less than nothing because the man she loved was gone, and a huge part of her was gone with him.

Sakura stopped counting after that; stopped counting dead friends and comrades, stopped counting passing days with and end nowhere in sight. So she didn't know how long after that Hinata was lost, just that the only part of Naruto that hadn't broken with the loss of Sasuke now crumbled and evaporated with the loss of his wife. The clouded day of the funeral, as her only remaining friend desperately cradled his three year-old son in his arms, Sakura watched him die inside. As the light left his eyes forever, she wondered if Naruto had watched the same thing happen to her. She hated herself for feeling bitter in her grief, for thinking that at least Naruto had his son…that she had nothing left of Kakashi but beautiful and painful memories. They had never wanted a child, but in the aftermath of losing him the thought was only natural.

That was when Sakura realized that none of them would ever recover. All she could do was share Naruto's grief and pain with him and try to bring and end to this war. All they had left now was each other.

Less than a year later her world ended. Stone sealed the Eight Tails into an adult jinchuuriki and set the crazed and uncontrolled shinobi loose upon Konoha in a final attempt at victory. Naruto met him on the battlefield that had once been the forest surrounding their village, as the Hokage, and as a fellow jinchuuriki. The Rokudaime Uzumaki Naruto fought to save his village in a legendary battle that would be remembered in every shinobi history book written from that day forward. He was victorious, and like his father before him he saved the devastated village from utter destruction. But that wasn't what Sakura remembered about that day. Those things didn't matter to her, because also like his father before him, their salvation had ultimately required his sacrifice. By the time she reached him, it was too late. Sakura would have given him the last drop of her chakra, of her blood – had tried to do so – anything at all to save him. But he knew, and he was content with his fate. He had stopped her futile attempts with a smile and a gentle hand, told her to let him go and apologized for leaving her behind. His last breath was a request for Sakura to someday find happiness again. It had been raining that day, a fitting tribute as the heavens wept with her and the entire village at the loss of the unloved orphan who had become their most treasured hero.

That was the day her heart died, and since that day she had not shed a single tear.

Even now as she walked through the dusty streets under the sweltering sun and remembered the events that left her in this harsh world alone, Sakura only felt hollow and empty. There were no more tears to shed. One could not be heartbroken when one no longer possessed a heart. Her soul was stripped bare and she existed without living, a ghost with only memories to keep her company. She was nothing but scar tissue.

How had she survived it all? Why was she the only one left? She had asked many times, to herself, to their ghosts, to the uncaring universe. But an answer never came. It was bitter irony that she now understood Kakashi more than ever, and he was not here for her to tell him. It seemed to be her fate to be left behind by those she loved. They had always left her behind when they were children. For a blissfully sweet time that seemed like a faraway dream she had walked beside them. Now they had left her behind once more, waiting for the day she would finally catch up again.

The only reason Sakura hadn't followed them was because she had a responsibility to help see it through to the end, to assure the sacrifices of those she mourned were not in vain. Eventually they had won, though she couldn't remember how. She had healed and she had saved whom she could. She trained a new generation of medics using the knowledge and guidance her master had given her. She worked with Shikamaru, one of the few remaining Rookie Nine, now the new and reluctant Hokage on whose shoulders the future of Konoha would fall. She did her duty numbly, existing only for others, for she had already died.

Konoha was not the only village to be devastated and left to rebuild the pieces of their ruined society. Although Akatsuki never saw the fruition of their efforts, in the end they succeeded in their goal to topple the shinobi infrastructure. It would be years before the once-great nations regained their former glory. Some like Suna may never recover. With the end of the war came the end of shinobi life as they knew it. The hidden villages were broken, barely functioning. There was no hiring out, no more accepting missions from the general public. It was all they could do to survive and support their own. The hidden villages became hidden once again, as they were in their founding days; closed off from outsiders and focused on self-reliance. Enemies and allies alike now had little or no concern for anyone but themselves.

When the dust settled, when people stopped dying and the rebuilding began, Sakura made the decision to leave Konoha. She was no longer needed, and she felt no obligation to stay. Shikamaru had understood and let her go. There was nothing for her there, nothing that wasn't too painful to be around. For a while she had tried to help Hanabi, who was now raising her own son and her sister's. But the pain the two women shared was too great, and every time they looked into each other's eyes they saw their own sorrow reflected back at them. It was easier not to look. Hardest of all was looking at those two little boys, both resembling their fathers so closely, invoking memories too painful to recall. Sakura was not as strong as Kakashi had been; she couldn't look at those names on the monument every day and remember a time when they stood warm and real beside her. She couldn't look at Naruto's face on the mountain and know she would never see that bright smile again. So she left, with a vague promise that she wouldn't stay away forever and that she would see those boys again before they were grown, and she had not looked back.

For two years now Sakura had wandered, working as an independent contractor like so many others who found their former homes too difficult to remain in. She traveled, offering her skills for hire, both as a medic and as an elite ninja. It was almost like the life of a missing-nin she'd gotten a taste of nearly eight years ago among Akatsuki, without the constant running and hiding and fighting for her life, though she'd had her share of that too. In the beginning it was rough, because there were still civilian bounty hunters and even a few renegade ninja who tracked those in the Bingo books. Sakura had been in it since her time with Akatsuki and the events that happened in Grass and Earth, just as they had predicted she would be. There were no missing nin anymore—the villages who had wanted their soldiers returned no longer cared nor had the funds to pay for the collection. But there were always some in the private sector who wanted them for some past grievance, and some who only did it for sport. It had been a while since she'd had a run in with a bounty hunter, and it hadn't ended well. For him. She'd left a clear message to others who may think to try where he failed, and she hoped they would leave her in peace.

Even though her life out here was unforgiving, she couldn't bring herself to go back. Konoha wasn't her home anymore. Her team had been her home. There was no reason to go back. The harsh reality of this wandering life she could handle, she was hardened to it and more than strong enough to survive out here. But being in Konoha, living among its people and walking through its streets without seeing their faces, without hearing their voices…that she could not handle, and so she stayed away.


Sakura squinted and shook her hair away from her dampened brow as she peered up at the wrought iron lettering over her head. This was the place. She approached the gates of the industrial complex and informed the armed guards who she was and why she was there, and they indifferently escorted her to a large concrete building guarded by more armed men. Some were shinobi, some weren't, but she paid them little attention. One rich contractor who made himself feel big and important by hiring masses of cut-rate thugs was the same as the next.

The goons opened the heavy door and let her inside, and she nearly sighed in relief as the cold blast of air-conditioning hit her face. She was in some sort of reception office, and the dirty brutes lounging around enjoying the cool air blatantly leered at her. One of the men disappeared through a back door. The biggest and ugliest of the bunch hauled his feet off the desk and set them on the floor with a thud before standing. He walked up slowly and stopped right in her face, clearly trying to intimidate. Whether he did that to everyone or if it was just because she was female Sakura didn't know, but she was neither impressed nor intimidated in any case.

"Well looky here. You a kunoichi?"

Apparently he was the smelliest of his comrades too, and she fought the urge to turn her face away, knowing he would only think it fear. Instead she sneered at him. "No, I'm the new nanny."

Perhaps he was too stupid to understand sarcasm, because he looked down at her weapon holster as if to make sure, before chuckling and speaking to his comrades. "This one's got a smart mouth. So unattractive in a woman." They grunted and murmured in agreement and he turned back to Sakura. "You sure don't look like much of a kunoichi, so pretty and pink." He grinned. "What's your name, sweetheart?"

Her blank expression didn't change. "None of your fucking business."

He grunted what could have been an attempt at menacing laughter. "We got a hot one this time, boys! Hmm. Maybe we'll be seeing you around later, sweetheart, and you can get to know us a little better."

She knew what he meant, but the thought barely registered because it didn't matter. They were laughable. Sakura smiled coldly at him, and the look in her eyes made him pause in his swaggering. Then the door in the back opened and the man who had gone through it emerged.

"He'll see you now."

Sakura sidestepped the large man and walked toward the door. As she passed him his hand shot out, intent on groping her ass as she walked by. She nonchalantly caught his hand, and with a little press of chakra in her fingertips, cleanly snapped his wrist. He howled in shock and pain as he cradled his mangled hand, and she continued through the door without breaking stride or ever glancing in his direction.

She was led to a back office and let inside. The dim room was choked with the sickeningly sweet stench of cigar smoke. It curled thickly in the air, illuminated by the slats in the blinded windows. At the other end of the room was a large wooden desk, and behind it sat the contractor. She could barely make out his features as his back was to the brightly outlined window, but he was large and burly and balding, and in his mouth was the source of the room's haziness.

"I am Yotsuba," he stated, leaning back in his chair while appraising her. "You're here about the contract, I presume?"


"What's your name?"

"Sakura." She had stopped giving her surname to potential employers some time ago

He was clearly amused. "Sakura, huh? I suppose it'd be pointless to tell you the name suits you." She gave no reaction, and he shifted in his seat before continuing. "Something about your name and appearance rings familiar. I think I've heard of you before."

"It's possible."

He chuckled. "Well if the kunoichi I'm thinking of is you, I must say I'm pleased to make your acquaintance. The partner I hired for you to work with on this job has something of a reputation too, it seems. He scared the piss out of my men when he came in here last week. Apparently they said something he didn't like too well and he put two of them out of service for a few days." He looked at her perceptively. "You didn't leave me with a mess to clean up too, did you?"

She didn't answer, but the slight raise of her brow and twist of her lips told him enough. He sighed and waved a hand indifferently. "Serves them right for not knowing better, I suppose. They're nothing more than peons, but what are you gonna do? If I only hired ninja of your caliber to fill their ranks it'd break me."

Her caliber. The fact that he gauged her power just by looking at her confirmed her suspicion: he was a shinobi, or at least a former one. She could feel his latent chakra ever since she entered the room, and she also knew it was nowhere near her level. He was nothing more than a businessman as far as she was concerned.

"Not one for pleasantries huh? You know, you and your partner aren't that different, you should get along quite well. That is, if you accept the job. And I'm hoping that you do."

"Why don't you tell me about it first," she said bluntly.

"Straight to the point, I can respect that. First, let me ask you this: how old are you?"

Sakura frowned. "What does that matter? I'm young enough to fit the description you gave."

"Indeed you are the perfect candidate, young and lovely. But humor me."

She stared at him a moment, then sighed irritably. "Twenty-six."

Yotsuba nodded, pleased. "Twenty six. It's a good age, and considering you're a ninja it indicates your skill. Your partner is of a similar age, if he told the truth. That will work nicely, and it was why I asked. Too young to be old, too old to be innocent." He chuckled.

"The contract?" she reminded curtly, glaring at him now.

He gestured to the air around him, indicating nothing and everything in particular. "As you can see, I own this complex and the factories here. I'm a businessman. But everyone has their hobbies, and mine is collecting rare and valuable artifacts. Antiques mostly. Nothing in this office of course, I keep my collection well guarded and cared for. Anyway, there is a particular item I've had my eye on for some time—a very old and very valuable sword. I've set my mind on acquiring it, but there is just one problem."

"It belongs to someone else," she ventured.

He smiled cunningly. "Precisely. It is currently in the possession of another collector of fine items, a fellow successful businessman by the name of Shingo."

"Have you tried to buy it from him?"

He smiled wickedly. "You clearly don't know much a bout the nature of private collectors. He would never sell. Besides, why would I want to do something like that when I can pay you to steal it for me?" The question was rhetorical, and he continued his explanation. "Shingo owns a chain of high-end hotels all along the islands east of here and below Water country. At the end of next week he's holding an exhibition gala at his largest resort, where he will be showcasing some of his more impressive pieces, the sword among them. I want you and your partner to go there and find a way to steal the sword."

"Seems easy enough. So why do you need two shinobi?"

He laced his hands in front of him on the desk. "This particular resort is primarily patronized by couples—sort of a honeymoon destination, if you will. You and he will play the part of newlyweds to avoid suspicion."

Sakura pursed her lips wryly. That just figured, didn't it?

He noticed her expression change. "Is that a problem?"

"No. It's nothing I haven't done before."

"Good to know. So then you accept the job?"


He smiled again. "Excellent. Now then, you'll meet your partner at this location tomorrow evening. This is the room number. He should already be waiting for you." Yotsuba scribbled the information on a piece of paper. "The two of you will head out from there and check in at the resort, stay for the next week or so, and leave the night of the gala with my sword. He has all of the reservation info with him already, and you two can go over it when you meet."

"Why didn't he stick around to meet me beforehand?"

"He said he didn't care who his partner was, he would do the job anyway. I respect a professional." Sakura walked forward to take the paper with the information. Yotsuba held onto it for a second, and she got her first clear look at his stern features as he smirked up at her. "Maybe you should use the opportunity to loosen up some, eh? Five star resort, tropical beaches, all expenses paid…by me of course. And a fat paycheck once you get the job done. Your partner's a handsome enough guy. Who knows, you may have a little fun." He smirked.

Sakura glared and tugged the paper, forcing him to let go lest he rip it in half. "I'm not doing this for fun. And I'll give you fair warning right now. This newlywed thing—it's an act. I'll tell the same thing to this partner of mine and if he even tries to make it otherwise, you'll be paying his half of the contract to me because he'll be too dead to collect it."

Yotsuba stared at her a moment, then let out a hearty laugh and shook his head. "Such beauty wasted on such a cold woman. Have it your way; all I care about is my sword."

She turned and left the office without another word.

Late afternoon the next day, Sakura arrived in the small outskirt village where she would meet her partner. The ferry ride over to the large island had taken all morning and was boring and uneventful, though still unpleasant as the waiting lounge had smelled like urine and it was too hot to stand outside. After debarking, she spent most of the afternoon trudging along the road through a thick tropical forest to her destination, the sweltering heat and humidity putting her in a foul mood before noon. She hadn't eaten all day, since she wasn't exactly keen to stop on the side of the road in a jungle where giant insects and monkeys were likely to steal her lunch or bite her head off.

The town itself wasn't much better. The main street was brightly colored and lined with shops and stalls to attract visitors, but signs of extreme poverty lurked just behind the vibrantly painted corners, where starving dogs and equally feral children peered at her from the backstreets. Strange to think that less than ten miles away was a cheery little town that was carefully controlled by the resort and thrived off of its patronage, a place where children could run and play at night with no fear. This place was the sort of town that lured tourists and took advantage of them by ripping them off or by outright mugging. It was a dangerous place for unsuspecting travelers.

Sakura was not one of those, and she acknowledged these details with a weary eye and continued down the road. She was tired and hungry and cranky, and she was glad this mission was paying so well because she disliked it more with every passing hour. Of course this kind of money for such a simple job made her suspicious. She hadn't survived this long by being a fool, but she would still do the job, keeping her guard up and her eyes open. From the description of the shinobi wanted and what Yotsuba had said about the man he hired, she was optimistic that at least she wouldn't have to play loving bride to a burly sweaty beast-man. Small favors, she supposed. He could still be a total creep.

That thought in mind, she glanced at the paper with the name of the hotel where she was to meet Mr. Right-for-the-week. She had plenty of time, and decided she needed a strong drink before dealing with that business. Sakura made her way to the first tavern in sight. Inside, she tried not to cough as a wave of cigarette smoke and the stench of a crowded unventilated room in summer hit her nostrils, and she ignored the sudden lowering of voices and heavy stares as she entered.

She took a seat at the bar and slumped forward, elbows on the sticky unpolished surface. The bartender came up and fixed her with a leer to rival his slimiest patrons. "What'll it be, doll?"

"Whiskey," she said without looking up.


"No." He walked away, returning a moment later to set the glass down in front of her. She didn't acknowledge him, and he faded out of her line of sight again. Sighing, she grabbed the glass and downed its contents. She made a face, not because it burned, but because it was obviously watered and tasted like week-old piss. "Another," she ordered, not bothering to be nice since he didn't bother to serve decent liquor and not stare at her chest when he talked to her.

He came back and set it down, and she drained it. The greasy bartender ogled her as she continued to stare at the wooden surface in front of her. "Want the bottle?" he chuckled.

This place was not helping her mood, and she was tired of the drunken men whispering and staring suggestive holes in her back. "No. That shit is disgusting." She slapped a few bills down on the bar, then stood and walked out.

Within the first minute she realized she was being followed. Well, let them follow her, whoever they were they would get a nasty surprise if they had ideas about mugging her. She kept walking.

Half a mile later her stomach did a sharp flip-flop, and she was suddenly severely lightheaded. Fuck. Her vision blurred slightly and it became difficult to walk in a straight line. The goddamn bartender had drugged her, and she men following her were undoubtedly from the bar.

Why did this shit always happen to her? Because you're a petite female with pink hair and a pretty face, her inner voice reminded, as she began to work chakra through her system to flush out the toxin. "Fucking damn it!" With those two shots she had apparently ingested enough drugs to knock out a horse. She couldn't work it out fast enough to remain unaffected. She was going to pass out soon. Sakura was furious. At herself for being stupid, but mostly at the men who thought they would have a little fun at her expense. They picked the wrong day to mess with her, and she was in no mood to go easy on anyone.

Sakura slowed and purposely faltered her steps to appear more affected than she currently was (though she knew it wouldn't be long until she was fumbling for real) and turned the corner onto a backstreet where she knew they would come out and attack her. A minute later they appeared and quickly surrounded her. There were five of them, but they didn't attack, intending to wait for her to go down on her own so they didn't have to do any work. What scum. She veered toward one of them, appearing to sway on her feet. She elbowed him in the face and he went down; out cold with a broken nose.

Sakura laughed inwardly. These guys were nothing more than common thugs and she wouldn't even need any chakra. In thirty seconds all five were unconscious and bleeding in the dirt. She cast them a scathing glance, and swayed as her legs wobbled, this time for real. She had to get away from here before she passed out or any of them woke up.

Sakura left the alley and made her way toward the hotel where she was supposed to meet her partner. No matter how fast her chakra worked in her system, she knew she was going down soon. She wasn't going to make it to the hotel, but she needed to get out of the open before the drug overtook her. As she groggily looked for some form of shelter she thought she saw a large shadow pass over her head, but when she looked up the sun blinded her and stabbed at her blurry eyes. She turned and stumbled into another back alley behind a souvenir shop and slumped against the wall as her legs finally failed her.

Well, shit. The perfect ending to the perfect day, she thought irritably as forced sleep began to creep up on her. She would be late to the rendezvous, but she would probably be out until well after dark so he was just going to have to deal with it.

Her ears were ringing dully in her head so she thought she may be imagining it, but as her vision swam and she gave in to unconsciousness she thought she heard a rhythmic rushing sound, like the flapping wings of some great bird. The last thing she saw was a bright flash of yellow before darkness took her.